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November 5, 2012

Temple of Witchcraft move concerns some

SALEM, N.H. — Some may have thought it was a Halloween joke last week when they were invited to the Temple of Witchcraft for an open house.

It was no joke.

The Salem-based nonprofit organization is seeking Planning Board approval to relocate from its current home at 2 Main St. to a two-story, 19th-century home at 49 N. Policy St.

Representatives from the religious group are scheduled to go before the board Nov. 13 for preliminary site plan approval, according to planning director Ross Moldoff.

The temple wants to use the first floor to teach classes in witchcraft while the second floor would be home to three of the organization’s dozen ministers, according to co-founder and minister Steve Kenson.

Its teachings are based on neopaganism, he said.

“The work of the temple is both other-worldly and terrestrial, seeking to strengthen the connections between spirit and matter through inner transformation and public service,” the group says on its website, templeofwitchcraft.org.

The organization would renovate and use a barn on the five-acre property. The house was last used as a residence before the group purchased it in September for $420,000.

Approval is also needed for a proposed 18-space parking lot, Kenson said.

Selectman Everett McBride Jr. said he’s received a few emails from people who are worried about having the Temple of Witchcraft in their neighborhood. He has asked Town Manager Keith Hickey to look into the proposal.

“The neighbors are nervous,” McBride said.

Kenson said the neighbors have nothing to worry about. He said the “nature-based” organization has been in Salem for two years, renting office space at 2 Main St. It holds peaceful rituals on a regular basis at the Masonic Temple, he said.

“They have absolutely nothing to be afraid of,” Kenson said. “We’re certainly not a threat to anyone. We believe very strongly that our practice isn’t for everyone.”

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